Maybe you’ve seen him on Broad Street delivering packages, letters and everything in between. Maybe he’s poured up your fourth IPA at the growler on the weekend. Either way, if you’ve been anywhere close to downtown Southern Pines, you’ve probably run into Matt Gaboury.
Matt’s route goes through Broad Street and around the N. May Street area. We tagged along with him on foot recently to ask if he ever sleeps — and more about what it’s like to be a mail carrier during Christmas — his busiest time of year.
Q: How long have you been with the Postal Service?
A: I’ve been with the postal service for 17 whole years. I worked up north in Massachusetts for most of those years, but my wife and I wanted to live somewhere warmer, so we moved to North Carolina about four years ago. I stumbled across Southern Pines by accident. I was working in Lumberton when my wife and I started to look for houses. We found a picture on Google of a cute little town with a train station about 4.5 years ago and I’ve been here ever since.
Q: So it’s obvious that the holidays are your busiest time of year. What’s the hardest part?
A: The hours. Trying to get everything done with the amount of time we have with really low amounts of help can be difficult. The volume is just crazy parcel wise and mail wise. We usually start around 6:30 a.m., and keep going until anywhere between 6 at night to 9:30. Honestly, since the pandemic hit, it’s been like holiday season for months. It’s been that busy.
Q: What’s the best gift you can give your mail carrier?
A: Oooo. Gift cards to restaurants are nice. I always really like when people put out the treats and snacks. Yes, we really do take them and we really do appreciate them.
Q: How many dogs do you encounter per day? Do you have a favorite dog?
A: I encounter a TON of dogs every day. I’m not really supposed to hand out treats but I like to. I do have a favorite dog and his name is Thumper. He’s a corgi and he’s the coolest.
Q: Have you ever been bitten by a dog?
A: I’ve been bitten by three dogs, but all three of those happened when I worked in Massachusetts. One time up north, a dog attacked me and I had to go get stitches. And then I got attacked by another dog later that day.
They give us “dog spray” to carry in our trucks, but I can say I’ve never had to use it while working in Southern Pines. This is the land of friendly dogs.
Q: What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on a mail route?
A: Oh, that is a tough one. There are a lot of things. I’ve pulled people out of overturned vehicles before. I guess since I’m always walking around or driving around, it’s easy to see accidents. I cut a grown man’s seat belt off when his truck flipped.
Q: What are conversation clichés you get often?
A: People do love to ask me about the weather. Like not just the temperature outside but like the forecast for the week. It’s like they think i’m the weatherman. Oh, and “you can keep the bills” is another one. Man, if I actually kept all the bills when I got that joke I’d be in deeeep.
Q: So basically you’re a mail carrier, EMT and meteorologist? Do you sleep?
A: Hahaha I guess you could say that. I also work at the Southern Pines Growler, but I do that for fun. I’m really interested in brewing beer and I’ve been brewing my own at home for 9 years now. I have about three different beers on tap right now. Growler has all the kits and stuff you need to brew your own beer, so I started working there to learn more about it.
Q: The long hours, the busy schedule — why do you do what you do?
A: Oh, that’s easy. I do it for the people. I love the people and especially the people around here. Sometimes, I’m the only person that someone sees all day long. I also deliver pretty hard stuff. I’ve delivered cremated remains to a widow who lost her husband. I’ve hugged them while they’ve cried with hopes that maybe by me being there for them, they won’t feel so alone.
I’ve picked up loose dogs, put them in the truck and brought them to their owners. It’s the little things — those personal connections I make with people in the community that keep me going.